The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

Local actors and writers tell their stories at community play festival

Leah De La Torre
Indira Rucker (left) and Janay Hanley (right) perform the student submitted piece, “Candlelight Dances” at the High Desert New Play Festivals on Feb. 16, 2024.

Local playwrights saw their workshopped plays performed for the first time at the High Desert New Play Festival over President’s Day weekend, Feb. 16 and 17. The two-night event was a celebration of the new work coming out of New Mexico State University and Las Cruces. 

The first night began with excerpts from plays and screenplays by students and other local writers. Both were directed by Eva Cullen and Yasmine Jahangiri. These plays were workshopped in a class where actors and writers worked together to make something that fit their vision. 

“The workshop is always the best part of it,” playwright Vida Vee Isabella Montoya said. 

The excerpts tackled a variety of issues relevant to students and their lives. One of the plays, Paper Crutches by James Fritz Jerome, discussed how racism impacts students’ lives. Candlelight Dances by Rissa Wooldridge explored the tension between soemone following their family’s desires or their heart’s. 

“I thought it was really interesting and really unique, especially how they were talking about the issues,” student Athena McPeake said. 

Rachel Maze (right) poses under the stage lights while performing “Candlelight Dances”, a student submitted piece for High Desert Play Festival. Feb. 16, 2024. (Leah De La Torre)

Many of the play excerpts were emotionally evocative. Girl. Literally, like, I’m Dead, by Mireya Sánchez-Maes left the audience laughing about two girls on treadmills complaining about an ex who couldn’t dodge a bullet. Not a dry eye remained at the end of Montoya’s The Kindred Ones, which commented on the experience of grieving a friend. 

“As an actor, that’s like your number one priority, just making the audience react to what you’re giving,” student actor Okalani Ventura said. 

After the excerpts, the audience and actors enjoyed refreshments from the Green Chile Paddy Wagon food truck. They returned for a reading of La Manda written by maiya a. corral and directed by Monica Mojica. 

La Manda is a play about a woman grieving her son, who died a few years before the play’s present timeline. She travels through time to discover pieces of her family and her loss. It’s a story of generational trauma, mourning, and the feelings that society puts guidelines on. 

“There’s definitely generational trauma that’s involved in [La Manda]; abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse,” Mojica said. “It also can provoke what we consider love and what we consider gender. There’s a queer love story but it’s also about not falling in love and about the barriers that we place either societal[ly] or individually from truly expressing yourself.” 

The playwright, maiya a. corral, drew inspiration for the story from her own experience of being queer and Hispanic.

“It’s my life. It’s my lived experience and I think I feel really lucky to be in a place where I’m safe enough to tell the stories. There’s a lot of sort of duty, in some ways, to tell stories,” corral said. 

All actors who performed in student submissions for High Desert Play Festival gather onstage to bow. Feb. 16, 2024. (Leah De La Torre)

On the second night of the festival, the actors performed student monologuesAct 1 of The Golden Door, written and composed by Lisa Hermanson and directed by Mike Wise, and a reading of untitled anthropocene play by Benjamin Benne and directed by Larissa Lury.

“I love seeing new work. I am such a huge fan of that. I think it’s so important and exciting to have new writers trying new things out. So I’m excited to rejoin [the festival] for that,” corral said.


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About the Contributors
Elizabeth Anne Andrews, Staff Writer
Elizabeth Anne Andrews is starting her first semester with The Round Up as a Staff Writer. She is currently a freshman at NMSU, majoring in Journalism & Media Studies. She grew up in a military family so she’s lived all over the US and Germany. Ever since she was young, Elizabeth Anne has always been curious about everything around her. It comes from experiencing different cultures and being homeschooled, both opportunities which allowed her to grow in her independence and creativity. In her free time, Elizabeth Anne enjoys writing poems, listening to music, or hanging out with her three siblings and cat.
Leah De La Torre, Multimedia Specialist
Leah De La Torre is entering her second year at The Round Up as a multimedia specialist. She will be majoring in Journalism and Media Studies. She grew up in El Paso, Texas. De La Torre has been making videos with her family and friends since she was in elementary school, and her love for the camera continued through high school as she became a member of the video and broadcast team. There, not only did she learn more about photography and video making but gained an interest in journalism. Her other interests include playing the cello, sewing, and listening to her favorite music artists like Her’s and The Strokes. Working for The Round Up, she hopes to continue doing what she loves, being behind the camera and contributing to making and telling stories about her community.

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